Still in the PRC, I take a bus, the only means of transportation aside from a bicycle out of Hunchun to the nearest city with air transport, Yanji, a lively and robust little city one would equate it to going to Las Vegas from Barstow or Bakersfield, the two later being Hunchun and whose U.S. equivalents’ are just as small and inactive. I was only in Yanji a few short days, but would experience one of my most memorable events, the first real taste of home in several weeks; KFC. Normally I don’t eat fast-food, but here in China, it was ambrosia. The festivities of the New Year in both countries have come to a close and the feelings of winter have subsided as I venture even further south by air through Shanghai, often called “Shag-high” by my friends because of how their Red-light and club district caters to Western foreigners. My destination, Xiamen, a lovely Oceanside city reminiscent of Los Angeles, Xiamen is an Oceanside city whose name means “Lower gate” or “The Gate of the Grand Mansion” and has similar weather and even an island near, similar to Catalina named Gulangyu, but nicknamed “Piano Island”. Piano Island has made its mark, many musicians are born here and those who are not, come to learn the instrument that garners its name. During the month of May, the island hosts a grand music festival.. Anyone who’s lived in Los Angeles or visited Catalina would say Piano Island has its similarities, although surely all would agree that Catalina has not contributed nearly as much to society or the arts.
After being in Xiamen for only two days, it was time to venture further out and across the water to Gulangyu or “Piano Island”. One can utilize either of the fun methods of transport to get to the island, either slow romantic ferry, or fast exciting speedboat, whichever method you choose, once there you immediately are reminded of the social standing of the surrounding area, or its tourist popularity because of the Mc Donald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut that guard the entrance to the Island. Contradictory to America, these fast-food outlets are considered rather expensive and regarding as fashionable eateries reserved for those who have a bit of expendable cash…oops Renmenbi, RMB, Yuan. Feeding a family of four at Mc Donald’s costs upwards of 100 Yuan. If you were to eat at a local shop it may only cost 24 Yuan, and the food would actually be healthier, including vegetables, meats and grains, the customary Chinese tea may be also be gratis!
A deeper look throughout the island ends your curiosity for more American transplants or nouveau-rich amenities as the remainder of the island is traditional Chinese culture including street performers broadcasting traditional opera and selling wears of old. Inexplicable to the islands namesake, no pianists, but if you listen closely; occasionally you could hear the faint sounds of melody or someone tuning in a distant parlor. My first experience of the Chinese Oceanside is had here, unlike in Europe or the Americas; there were no bikini clad women, but unfortunately for me I did see a few men in Speedos. Although the island seems more traditional than other areas, the cost of living here is not cheap and some who live here can actually sit atop their mountain and Oceanside homes and look down on the nearby mainland city.